Estate Plans: You’re Not Doing Anyone a Favor by Avoiding the Subject

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Do your kids realize just how much money you’re really worth once all your assets are added up?
If they’re anything like the adult offspring surveyed for Fidelity Investments’ “Family & Finance Study,” the answer is a resounding — and rather scary — “no.” In fact, seven out of 10 of them underestimated their parents’ estate by an average of $278,000.
That’s right, by more than a quarter of a million dollars.
The reason that’s scary — and why it should be a wake-up call for even those with modest estates they hope to pass on to heirs — is simple: It illustrates a breakdown in communications that Kevin Ruth, head of Fidelity’s wealth planning and personal trust, says badly needs addressing through ‘frank conversations” between parents and their adult children.
“Even in the simplest of family situations, conversations that don’t occur frequently and in detail can result in fairly substantial family disagreements and disconnects,” says Ruth. “Establishing an estate plan is your best bet to ensure your loved ones are taken care of in your absence and that your wishes are carried out the way you want.”
In fact, according to the study, the two generations apparently can’t even agree on whether they’ve already had such detailed talks.
Seventy percent of parents surveyed believe they have; more than 50 percent of their children claim they haven’t.
So what are the benefits of an estate plan? Well, among other things, it allows you to:
* Preserve and maintain control over the transfer of your assets.
* Protect your family’s privacy and possibly avoid probate.
* Provide immediate access to liquidity.
* Choose how your beneficiaries will receive assets.
* Designate who’ll execute your wishes even if you’re just incapacitated.
Plus, for those who despise the thought of the government getting any more money than legally required, having a sound estate plan in place could help your heirs avoid needlessly paying certain Federal estate taxes (not to mention state estate and inheritance taxes, depending on local laws).
Ah, but you’re stuck on that $278,000 figure, right?
Actually, given how complicated today’s lives often are — what with stepchildren’s interests to protect, say, and family businesses to pass on — most people, and not just the very wealthy, could do with some solid estate planning. Heck, even distributions from IRAs and Roth IRAs can be tricky if the aim is to “stretch” payments out to beneficiaries, tax-deferred or tax-free, for as long as decades.
Attorneys and tax advisors can help you set up an estate plan, and online resources like Fidelity’s Estate Planning Overview provide a good idea of what’s involved. Fidelity customers also have access to its new Estate Planner to more thoroughly prepare and educate themselves for a meeting, right down to details like organizing documents and choosing lawyers.
As for why parents and their children may be reluctant to discuss the subject, Ruth has an explanation: “It’s human nature to avoid thinking about one’s own mortality.”

Liquid Assets: Water Testing for Household Well Owners A Snap

Easy Well TestingTesting one’s drinking water can be intimidating to a household well owner, but it can be easy if you know a few basic steps, says the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

If you are concerned about your well water, these three steps can help get owners the appropriate tests for contaminants that might present a health risk — or create taste, odor, or appearance problems:

1. Determine what you should test for in your water.

2. Obtain a reliable water test.

3. Get an interpretation of your test results so you can take any appropriate action.
An excellent place to start learning more about these three steps is the NGWA website,
www.WellOwner.org.

Small Businesses Hold the Key to Employee Happiness

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – As the calendar flips to another year, many employees will consider starting the new year on the hunt for a new job. In today’s changing workforce, it is more important than ever for companies to realize that a salary alone is no longer enough to recruit or retain strong employees. According to a recent survey by Aflac, small businesses deserve a round of applause for their ability to keep employees happy. The report found that 85 percent of small-business employees are happy in their current job and more than half (51 percent) agree that most of or all of their happiness in their current job is because is a result of working for a small business.
The keys to happiness
Nearly a quarter of participants (23 percent) stated that the feeling of importance was the best part of working for a small business. Small businesses have the unique ability to make employees feel appreciated, respected and valued on a personal and professional level. In a small business environment, there are typically fewer layers between newcomers and leadership. This tight-knit structure of small businesses can create a family-like atmosphere that allows employees to feel that their opinions matter and that they play a significant role in the business’s mission.
Flexibility is also vital in creating employee happiness. According to the report, 30 percent of respondents noted that flexible scheduling was the best part of working for a small business. This can include working from home, leaving work early to play in a summer sports league or giving new parents an extra week of paid time off to help care for their newborn. A workplace that promotes healthy work-life balance can create happier, less stressed employees and can also increase employee productivity on the job.
Unlocking improvements
Although small businesses excel at keeping employees happy, there is always room for improvement. In a small-business community, money does not seem to be the only motivator. In fact, 65 percent of small-business employees indicate that an improvement in their benefits offerings would make them happier employees. By offering a robust benefits plan that includes voluntary benefits, small businesses can ensure that their employees are able to find the right benefits to meet their individual needs.
Learn more at aflac.com/smallbusiness.

Foodies Flock to Greater Fort Lauderdale’s Dining Destinations

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – “The customer always comes first” should be every company’s mantra. However, a lot of companies say it, but don’t act on it. So, how do we make sure we’re living up to that mindset?
The answer is simple — just ask.
On any given night, half of the guests in our hotels are members of the Hilton Honors loyalty program and their feedback is what helps us make our program so esteemed.

Bates Family Grows as Daughters Become Moms

(NewsUSA)Blazin Buffalo Potato Skins

1. Blazin’ Buffalo Potato Skins

It’s the big-game weekend and you’re hosting. You want something bold, flavorful, and better for you. Get recipe here.Nutty Tapenade

2. Nutty Tapenade

Dips are an easy way to feed the crowd. Here’s a lighter option that is just as creamy and rich as ever. Get recipe here.Spicy California Quesadillas

3. Spicy California Quesadillas

This twist on a classic appetizer will fill you up, while still packing a ton of nutrients. Get recipe here.Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

4. Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

You know protein is king when it comes to feeling full, so why not pack a one-two punch by adding Blue Diamond almonds? Get recipe here.Almond Cupcakes

Listos para la aventura con Elena de Avalor

(NewsUSA)Blazin Buffalo Potato Skins

1. Blazin’ Buffalo Potato Skins

It’s the big-game weekend and you’re hosting. You want something bold, flavorful, and better for you. Get recipe here.Nutty Tapenade

2. Nutty Tapenade

Dips are an easy way to feed the crowd. Here’s a lighter option that is just as creamy and rich as ever. Get recipe here.Spicy California Quesadillas

3. Spicy California Quesadillas

This twist on a classic appetizer will fill you up, while still packing a ton of nutrients. Get recipe here.Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

4. Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

You know protein is king when it comes to feeling full, so why not pack a one-two punch by adding Blue Diamond almonds? Get recipe here.Almond Cupcakes

Welcome to El Salvador: We’ve Been Expecting You

(NewsUSA) – When travelers think of El Salvador, it is not often that visions of pristine beaches, luxury hotels or centuries-old cobble stone streets would be top of mind. But this small, yet beautiful country in Central America (roughly the size of Massachusetts) has done much to reinvent itself and is positioned to be the next trendy hot spot for travel.Renowned for its Pacific Ocean beaches, surfing, lush landscapes and unspoiled natural habitats, El Salvador is an eco-traveler’s paradise that is also known as the Land of Volcanoes with 25 active volcanoes, which, with their beautiful mountain ridges, are eye-catching as they rise stark and majestic against the background of blue skies. Looking out from high above while standing on one of the many natural overlooks within the ridges, visitors can see monster waves crashing against soft, black sand beaches, which are a haven for surf enthusiasts.If the warm waters are not your style, there are plenty of additional attractions to visit, from memorials and museums that pay homage to the country’s roots to other natural beauties, including a collection of archaeological sites and vast amounts of coffee plantations.For those looking to explore this fascinating, up-and-coming travel destination, the tourism board has created a variety of routes to help plan your next adventure:* Hang ten. El Salvador has ideal surfing conditions along the shores of its southern beaches. At these surfing spots, travelers can find schools with bilingual instructors and shops to rent surfboards. La Libertad is one of the most popular areas with Punta Roca anchoring the surf scene. With waves that are appealing to all levels from beginner to professional, combined with consistently warm waters averaging 80 degrees year-round, it is no wonder why the country hosts numerous competitions.* Delve into history. Day trippers can wander through colonial cities and explore grand, historic structures such as the cathedral and national theater off the square at Santa Ana, or take a quiet stroll past pastel-colored houses, such as those found in the mountain town of Suchitoto.* Dig in. For those looking to dig into the country’s heritage (literally and figuratively), guides arrange tours to top archaeological sites of the Mayan world such as Joya De Ceren, which includes museums and trails and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.* Take a plantation tour. If your love of coffee knows no bounds, then you have come to the right country. Visitors who want to experience El Salvador’s coffee culture can learn about the process from plant to cup — the proper methods of growing coffee beans, harvesting, sorting, drying, roasting and the delicate process the fruit (that is right, a coffee bean is considered a fruit) goes through before it can be brewed into the iconic beverage that helps kick-start your morning.* Channel your inner artist. Visit small towns dedicated to the craftsmanship of objects made from wood, clay, natural fibers and recycled materials. Historically, indigo ruled the area and was the key driver of the economy before a synthetic component was created. Today, visitors can still learn the original, organic way indigo was used to create vibrant apparel and try their hand at creating a perfect garment.Whether you are looking for an active vacation or relaxing beach getaway, El Salvador has the ideal blend of attractions. For more information, please visit http://elsalvador.travel

Join Billions Around the World and Go for Gold During the Olympics

(NewsUSA)Blazin Buffalo Potato Skins

1. Blazin’ Buffalo Potato Skins

It’s the big-game weekend and you’re hosting. You want something bold, flavorful, and better for you. Get recipe here.Nutty Tapenade

2. Nutty Tapenade

Dips are an easy way to feed the crowd. Here’s a lighter option that is just as creamy and rich as ever. Get recipe here.Spicy California Quesadillas

3. Spicy California Quesadillas

This twist on a classic appetizer will fill you up, while still packing a ton of nutrients. Get recipe here.Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

4. Sun-dried Turkey Meatballs

You know protein is king when it comes to feeling full, so why not pack a one-two punch by adding Blue Diamond almonds? Get recipe here.Almond Cupcakes

Summer Is the Perfect Time to Catch Up on Some Reading

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – As summer days grow longer (and hotter), with them comes a more relaxed mindset — there are no lunches to make, kids to get off to school or parent-teacher conferences to attend. In short, it tends to be a great time to catch up on some of those guilty pleasures that you deny yourself nine other months out of the year.
For bookworms, summer is license to read light.
“I still cherish the notion that summer reading is more leisurely and wonderful than the rest of the year,” Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books in St. Louis Mo. told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an interview.
If you’re looking for a recommendation on what to take to the pool or on vacation, look no further than the recommendations below:
* “The Lightbearers,” by Nora Garcia. According to one reviewer, “Garcia has done an excellent job of providing a mix of the paranormal, evil geniuses and robots into one thrilling story around a couple that removes the boundaries of a single life.” “The Lightbearers” starts off by proving Jean and George Crystal are not your average couple. They have been tasked with guarding humanity and enlightening those with whom they come into contact. As readers move through 3,300 years, they’re shown how George and Jean, originally an Egyptian king and queen, can cross all boundaries to ensure they accomplish their given task.
For more information or to buy the book, click here or search “Nora Garcia” on Amazon.
* “The Girls in the Garden,” by Lisa Jewell. For anyone who fancies themselves a sleuth, this mystery begins in a London neighborhood after a girl finds her 13-year-old sister Grace unconscious and hidden in a remote corner of a communal garden. The community denies any wrongdoing and, as an investigation unfolds, secrets and betrayals are spilled, challenging the picturesque and idyllic neighborhood image.
* “End of Watch,” by Stephen King. The acclaimed author finishes the Bill Hodges trilogy (“Mr. Mercedes” and “Finders Keepers”) in typical page-turning fashion by pitting an aging protagonist (Detective Hodges) against his nemesis, a mass murderer who is back with more even more terrifying methods at his disposal than before. Washington Post reviewer Elizabeth Hand says, “One finishes this novel feeling great empathy for its resolute protagonist and even greater trepidation about that next round of Candy Crush.”

A Better Approach to Selling Your Business

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Blame it on kids who can download music from iTunes with a swipe of a finger. Or point to a sluggish economy. Maybe it’s the fact that society as a whole, while still in love with music, would rather watch TV than gather around a piano.
Whatever the reason, piano sales have been less than grand for decades, as fewer people take up the instrument. With an average cost of $16,000 for a new grand piano, it’s easy to understand why those who are interested might opt for a less expensive electronic keyboard or buy used.
According to the National Association of Music Merchants, the best year for new piano sales was more than a century ago; in 1909 more than 364,500 were sold, and our population was only 90 million.
Today? Our population has more than tripled, while piano sales have reportedly plummeted to an all-time low. Only 30,000 new pianos were sold in 2015.
“Computer technology has just changed everything about what kids are interested in,” said Larry Fine, a Boston-based piano technician. “People are interested in things that don’t take much effort, so the idea of sitting and playing an hour a day to learn piano is not what kids want to do.”
Which is why piano stores like Piano Man’s Piano Superstore in College Park, Maryland, is being forced to close its doors. The 32,000 square foot store specializes in late-model, brand-name, pre-owned pianos at discounted prices, catering to professionals as well as beginners. The company normally reconditions and restores 20 to 30 pianos every month, but the company said its sales have been lagging.
Owner Nick Margaritas said that since the onset of the recession, new piano sales have been dropping rapidly and are only half of what they were in 2008. Another indicator that things are not what they once were is that sales for the 2015 Christmas season — a peak time for the industry — were the softest seen in years. Couple that with the blizzard of 2016, and the decision to close an operation that was simply “too big to succeed” was an easy one, said Margaritas.
Top brands such as Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha, Kawai and others must be sold prior to the projected closing date of April 30. The Baltimore Showroom and Piano Service Center that has been in operation since 1974 will, however, remain open.
For more information, visit www.pianomansuperstore.com.